Schäuble confident Merkel will achieve 'Jamaica coalition'

Germany's outgoing Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said German leaders will soon find a way to form a three-party governing coalition - dubbed "Jamaica" due to colors associated with the three parties involved.

Wolfgang Schäuble, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), on Monday expressed confidence that Germany would soon get a stable government comprising the CDU, the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP).

"Let things play out. There will be a way," Schäuble told a special edition of German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. He added that a "Jamaica coalition" was just a matter of time, as "we need a stable government for our country."

The so-called Jamaica coalition, named because the three parties' traditional colors of black, yellow and green correspond to the Caribbean country's flag, is being seen as Chancellor Angela Merkel's best shot at forming a government after the Social Democrats ended their partnership with her CDU, following a dismal show in general elections last month.

But coalition talks are expected to be lengthy and tricky with the three parties having vast ideological and policy differences, including on immigration.

The Greens on Saturday unanimously approved exploratory talks with the business-friendly FDP and the CDU to form the next government.

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Colorful shorthand for German coalitions

Coalitions are common under Germany's proportional representation system. To describe complex ballot outcomes, political pundits use colorful symbolism, often alluding to the flags of other nations. Coalition short-hand includes 'Jamaica,' 'Kenya,' and 'traffic light' coalitions.

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'Jamaica' option - black, yellow and green

The three-way deal between the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, whose color is yellow will not be happening at national level after the FDP called off talks. The northern state of Schleswig-Holstein currently has a "Jamaica" government, as CDU premier Daniel Günther governs with the FDP and the Greens.

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Black-red coalition

Conservative black combined with transformative red is the color code when the Christian Democrats govern in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats. Yellow on these billboards alludes to Germany's tricolor flag of black, red and gold. Black tops the flag, signifying Germany's responsibility for the Holocaust.

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'Pizza Connection' in Bonn, before parliament moved to Berlin

When Bonn was still Germany's capital, individual conservatives and Greens met from 1995 in its suburban Italian Sassella restaurant. Since then, the 'Pizza Connection' has become code for speculation over further links. At regional level, in Hesse's Wiesbaden assembly, Merkel's CDU and Greens have governed together since 2014. Baden-Württemburg's Greens-CDU coalition has governed since 2016.

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Another untried combination: Black, red, green, symbolized by Kenya's flag

So far, a 'Kenyan' coalition has only emerged once at regional state level - last year in Saxony-Anhalt, when the SPD's vote collapsed, and the AfD took a quarter of the votes. Premier Reiner Haseloff of Merkel's conservatives forged a coalition comprising his conservative CDU, the battered SPD and the region's Greens.

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'Traffic light' coalition

The market-oriented liberal FDP, whose color is yellow, has in the past generally ruled out federal coalitions sandwiched between the Social Democrats, whose color is red, and the Greens. A current example is Rhineland Palatinate's three-way regional state coalition based in Mainz and headed by Social Democrat Malu Dreyer.

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Center-left combinations in three eastern states

Red-red-green coalitions exist in two German regions: since last September in Berlin city state and since 2014 in Thuringia. It's Erfurt-based government is headed by Left party premier Bodo Ramelow, seen signing (third from left). Berlin's three-way mix is headed by Social Democrat Michael Müller. Brandenburg has a two-way coalition, comprising the Social Democrats and the Left party.

Dismissing refugee 'ceilling'

In the same interview, Schäuble also dismissed the importance of settling on a cap on the number of refugees coming to Germany every year. This has been a sticking point between some members of Merkel's CDU and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

The CSU calls for a ceiling on refugees, a demand that Merkel has repeatedly turned down. The Greens and the FDP similarly oppose any cap on migrants.

The 75-year-old conservative said the issue of a refugee cap does not need to be part of a possible coalition contract.

Schäuble also defended Merkel's open-door policy at the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015.

"Our children will be proud of the readiness to help shown by Germans during the refugee crisis," he said.

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'No-one can wreck our democracy'

Schäuble, who is due to become president of Germany's next parliament, expressed optimism that Germany's democratic institutions would withstand the entry of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Bundestag.

Lawmakers in Germany's other parties have accused the AfD of whipping up anti-foreigner sentiment and violating the country's political norms.

"Our free, democratic system based on the rule of law is so strong that nobody can wreck it, neither from within nor from without. Anybody who tries will fail," said Schäuble, who is Germany's longest-serving parliamentarian.

ap/gsw (Reuters, dpa)